Reaching out to the disadvantaged

More frivolous orientation activities took a philanthropic turn when 120 Flinders Hall residents devoted a two-hour session to assembling birthing kits for use in developing countries.

The project is one of a series of charitable and volunteering opportunities that have become an integral part of living on campus, according to the Dean of Flinders Living, Ms Helen Fletcher.

Mixed teams of new and continuing student residents operated in teams to pack the kits.

“They were amazingly well organised and exceedingly enthusiastic,” said Ms Fletcher.

The birthing kits included items such as rubber gloves, gauze swabs and, perhaps most crucially, a surgically sealed scalpel and lengths of string.

Ms Fletcher said the availability of a sterile method of cutting and tying off the umbilical cord was vital in preventing infection and the spread of diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

Packed in Western countries, the kits are used by local birthing assistants who are trained to help deliver babies in areas that lack medical facilities, often in very primitive conditions.

“These kits are responsible for and saving thousands, or even tens of thousands, of lives and preventing hundreds of thousands of infections in developing countries,” Ms Fletcher said.

The activity was incorporated into the Hall’s competitive Scavenger Hunt, a series of activities aimed at familiarising newcomers with life at Flinders and in Adelaide. Donating blood also earned points for the students.

“It gave the students a sense from the very outset that it is a normal part of life within Flinders Living to do things that are about helping less advantaged people and people in need,” Ms Fletcher said.

As Dean of Flinders Living, Ms Fletcher oversees Flinders University’s residential accommodation, comprising the Hall of Residence and its 248 residents and the nearby Deirdre Jordan Village, which houses 305 independently living students.

She said packing the kits proved to be a very positive way of getting continuing students to bond with new arrivals, and a range of social events will continue in the early weeks of term to help integrate the “Hallies” with the “Villagers”.

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